Tips on Which Records Management Certifications to Pursue

iStudent Blog Allison-Randall-Gatt

Are you considering a career in information governance and wondering what types of certifications you might need, in addition to your master’s degree? If so, then a recent webinar hosted by the SJSU iSchool may be just what you are looking for. You can view the webinar recording, or browse my recap below.

During the October 1, 2014 webinar, records management professional Jim Merrifield, IGP, CIP, ERMs, described many of certifications available for records administrators, and shared his advice regarding which ones you may want to obtain.

He explained all those letters listed after his name and how a certificate is different from a certification. In the world of records administration, a certificate is awarded by a specific program or institution after an educational process. On the other hand, a certification is awarded by a third-party, standard-setting organization after a test or assessment process. A certification requires a certain amount of professional experience and typically requires maintenance or re-testing to keep it current. All certifications require some sort of maintenance, whether through re-testing, coursework hours or membership in the hosting organization.

“A certificate is something to put on your resume,” said Merrifield. “A certification results in a combination of letters to use as a designation after your name.”

Merrifield went on to discuss specific certifications that are most relevant to students in the iSchool’s Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) program. It sounded a little bit like alphabet soup to me, but here’s the list and what all those letters are about:

  • Certified Information Professional (CIP)
  • Certified Document Imaging Architect (CDIA)
  • Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP) certification
  • Certified Records Manager (CRM)
  • Information Governance Professional (IGP)

So which certification should you choose? That depends on what sort of field you’d like to work in within the world of information governance.

MARA program coordinator, Dr. Pat Franks, notes that the MARA program and course of study was designed with many of these certifications in mind and students can be confident about being well prepared to take the CRM upon graduation. Coursework also focuses on additional certifications not mentioned in Merrifield’s presentation that are offered by the Institute of Certified Archivists.

The CIP, administered by AIIM International, adheres to the ISO Standard and ensures conformity with accepted procedures. This certification is a good way to show your ability to bridge any gaps between information technology and business. “Being able to be strong in technology will keep you competitive in the current job market,” says Merrifield.

Obtaining certification as a CDIA has a slightly different slant, and “validates a professional’s level of expertise in the technologies and best practices used to plan, design and specify an enterprise content system.”

The PMP is administered through the Project Management Institute and considered the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers. It is globally recognized and attests to your competence and ability to lead and direct projects. An added bonus to this one, Merrifield pointed out, is that recognition with this certification usually results in salary increases. Everyone these days has project management experience, so it may be more easily obtainable than you think.

The CRM credential provides a strong foundation of basic skills for records information management professionals and demonstrates knowledge to clients, employers and upper management. If you’re in the MARA program, you’re either a CRM already or you’re probably going to pursue this soon.

Certification as an IGP proves your ability to be a strategic thinker, which is in high demand in the current job market. Employers today are looking for records management professionals who know how to diminish risks, cut excess and unnecessary costs, and when to actively use information for its business value. The IGP deals a lot with information laws and regulations. Eligibility is more stringent than many of the other certifications, including a minimum of applicable experience. Maintenance of this certification requires a specific amount of hours in both legal and technology continuing education in order to stay current with both fields which are always changing.

Two required MARA 284 seminar courses, Information Governance and Information Assurance specifically address material that will prepare students for the IGP certification.

Merrifield was quick to point out the need to choose wisely. “Certification helps establish professional credibility, so choose the most relevant from those available.”

Career goals will also help shape your decisions—different areas of information governance will need different certifications.

Merrifield concluded his webinar with a brief overview of the many certificates available and the organizations that offer them, including:

  • AIIM certificate courses include Business Process Management, Enterprise Content Management, Information Governance, Taxonomy and Metadata and Electronic Records Management.
  • ARMA certificate courses include Professional Leadership and the Essentials of Information Governance, which Merrifield found essential for today’s record management professionals. Many of these certificates can also help with preparation for testing for specific certifications.
  • Optismo Certificate Courses include a CIP Prep course, a public speaking course, a best practices course and a management fundamentals course. The idea behind these certificates was to give information professionals training in essential management and communication skills.

“Certificate courses help strengthen different areas of expertise,” says Merrifield, and many of these courses take only a few hours and are offered online at reasonable prices.

Jim Merrifield is the founding partner of Optismo and Co-founder of InfoGovCon.  He noted throughout his presentation that he is available to answer MARA student questions about certification study materials and processes.

Are you a MARA student or information professional wondering which certifications fit best with your career goals? Tell us and your fellow MARA students all about it.

Related content:

All About the MARA Program—Courses and Careers in Information Governance

MARA Student Desiree Wallen Creates Guide to National Archives’ Civil War Collections

MARA Lecturer Lisa Daulby Earns IGP Certification

Dr. Patricia C. Franks Earns Information Governance Professional

image courtesy of Stuart Miles

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